8 Delicious Books For Fussy Eaters
If you have a fussy eater, there are probably around 3 times a day when your anxiety shoots through the roof. Objectively, we know our children will (probably) eat before they starve but damn if it isn’t hard to sit through mealtimes where it seems like our kid probably ingested about 10 calories (and expended 100 more from the wailing and flailing). Sooner or later, it’s a phase most kids will go through so this part of raising kids is very much a stress-inducing rite of passage. In moments of calm, I try to put on my kid hat and recall what I hated eating (green beans… still don’t like them) and I try to have grace that sometimes there are just foods a person doesn’t and won’t like. No matter how old they are. Here are some book recommendations that hopefully make mealtime less combative and more empathetic and, dare I say, even fun…
P.S. Share in the comments what has worked for you when you’re facing a mealtime standoff!
For kids who are still learning about food
This selection of books is perfect for kids (especially babies and toddlers) who are starting their food journey and are still trying new foods.
Yum Yummy Yuck
Written by: Cree Lane | Illustrated by: Amanda Jane Jones
Recommended Age: 0-3 years old
Who hasn’t found a house slipper stained with baby drool? This sweet little book is great for introducing kids to what should go in their mouths and what shouldn’t. Each page shows a food item being described as yum or yummy and then one item that definitely should not go into a mouth as being “yuck.” For each yucky item, it explains why that should not be put in the mouth. The illustrations are simple but gorgeous in eye-candy pastel shades. The explanations for the yucky items will put a smile on your face. This book is a treat! After giving this a read, you may consider coming up with your own yum, yummy, yucks.
Chew, Chew, Gulp!
Written by: Lauren Thompson | Illustrated by: Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Recommended Age: 2-4 years old
Play is the work of children and the food-eating process doesn’t have to be any different! This lovely book showcases all the ways we interact with our food—we poke, prod, curl, and slurp. It helps build language around food—even as I was reading it, I thought it was remarkable how many words we use to describe food and how we eat. I can imagine how fun it would be for your kid to describe how they plan on eating their food and being silly with it is half the fun! The illustrations feature a diverse cast of characters that demonstrate how they eat various foods.
Written by: Elizabeth Verdick | Illustrated by: Marieka Heinlen
Recommended Age: 2-5 years old
I love this book for making it easy to show my kid what mealtime should look like. The book walks through the steps of mealtime: washing your hands, getting your plate, using your manners to ask for more (I can feel the ha! from some of you :D), and putting your plate away at the end of mealtime. Is this really what happens at my house? No. But it does a great job modeling so kids know how to behave at mealtimes in public settings and hopefully, one day, this will become the natural order of things. You can use this book as a sort of checklist to help your kid learn the steps for mealtime. The illustrations are lovely showing a teacher guiding students in a school / daycare setting. The artwork is colorful and a treat for the eyes. The very last pages of the book have a brief guide for caregivers on how to make mealtimes palatable (see what I did there?) to young children.
For kids who want what they want
I’d Really Like To Eat A Child
Written by: Sylviane Donnio | Illustrated by: Dorothee de Monfreid
Recommended Age: 3-6 years old
From the title alone, I knew I’d like this book and it surely doesn’t disappoint! One day Achilles decides he wants to eat a child and only a child. His parents try to dissuade him by preparing other things they think he’ll like but Achilles is determined. Then, Achilles comes across a child and his hunger kicks in and… let’s just say things don’t go quite as he expected. This is a delightful read sure to please kids. I appreciate that this book is not too on the nose and has enough subtlety to offer up a surprise ending. A great conversation starter for this book would be to ask your kids what is one activity they enjoy and what they would have to eat to get better / stronger. The sketch work is lovely. The crocodiles look harmless and lethal all at once. This book is sure to win your heart!
Jake Goes Peanuts
Written and Illustrated by: Michael Wright
Recommended Age: 3-7 years old
This lively rhyming book is hilarious in large part by the colorful artwork that brings this book to life. Jake loves peanuts and little else. His parents decide that if that’s what he wants then that’s what he’ll have. After a week of truly creative peanutty dishes (a true labor of love), Jake is thoroughly peanuted out. The premise of the book is simple—too much of a good thing makes it a lot less fun—but the journey is fun and will make you laugh. The artwork has a The Simpsons vibe and the expressions are just delicious. This is a book that adults and kids will enjoy. Some questions to ask as you read along: Why do you think Jake got sick of peanuts? How long do you think it would take you to get sick of [kid’s favorite food]?
Links to buy: Amazon
Bread And Jam For Frances
Written by: Russell Hoban | Illustrated by: Lillian Hoban
Recommended Age: 5-8 years old
The plot of this book is similar to Jake Goes Peanuts but is geared toward slightly more advanced readers. Frances loves bread and jam. No matter what her mother serves, Frances wants only bread and jam. She loves it so much she makes little songs about it. When she starts to refuse to eat other things, her mom decides to let Frances eat bread and jam for all her meals. Surprise, surprise: soon, Frances is tired of bread and jam and more willing to try other things. Even though this is not a chapter book, this book is great for readers who are transitioning to those types of books. The illustrations are line drawings with soft, muted colors and a cozy, nostalgic feel to them. As your kid reads this book, consider asking them why they think Frances was getting tired and what they would do if they were in Frances’ shoes.
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For kids who know what they don’t want
I Will Never NOT EVER Eat A Tomato
Written and Illustrated by: Lauren Child
Recommended Age: 2-6 years old
This book is excellent in so many ways, I’m not quite sure where to begin! In this story, Charlie is the older brother and Lola is his younger sister. Lola is a very fussy eater who is clear on all the things she will not eat. Charlie, sometimes responsible for feeding Lola, has to come up with ways to get her to eat. What ensues is a brilliant amount of imagination as Charlie convinces Lola that what she thinks are peas are actually “green drops from Greenland.” I think this book works so well because it’s a kid trying to get another kid to eat their fruits and veggies. And I love that play and imagination is the very heart of the story to help transform the mundaneness of peas into something unusual and unexpected.
The text is designed to help kids who are learning to read. Small graphics accompany certain words to help readers familiarize themselves with the written names of those objects; for example, the word potatoes will be shown with a small illustration to help readers recognize the word. Child’s collage illustrations pair line drawings with real imagery and the result is fun, joyful, and engaging artwork that is sure to draw kids into Charlie and Lola’s world.
There are SO MANY ways you can use the tools in this book for your kids! Next time you’re facing resistance, come up with a creative way to make those fruits and veggies more exciting. Get your kid to come up with their own stories too! For those who may not know, this is the first book of an award-winning series on Charlie and Lola. The books were turned into a TV show in the UK and you can watch a few episodes on YouTube. Here is the episode that is based on this book.
Tales For Very Picky Eaters
Written and Illustrated by: Josh Schneider
Recommended Age: 6 - 9 years old
This chapter book is a series of stories in which each story is about a food James does not want to try. When James refuses to try each food, his dad responds with a crazy concocted story in response. In the end, James usually agrees to try the food in question. I think my favorite tale is the one on milk because the story James’ dad spins is true enough to appease the nutritionally-minded adults in the room and zany enough to convince kids to have their milk. As I Will Never NOT EVER Eat A Tomato, I highly recommend leaning into the father’s spirit and coming up with crazy stories to make mealtime entertaining! This definitely feels like a chapter book so it’s great for older fussy eaters. The illustrations are charming in their simplicity and do a great job of communicating James’ doubts and, ultimately, his resignation. One of the things that I really appreciate about this book is that it’s centered on James’ relationship with his dad. Too often, we see dads overlooked in children’s books so this was very refreshing!
Drop a comment below and share any tips / advice you have for making mealtime a pleasant(er) experience!
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